The spectacular rise of ecommerce at India’s MensXP

Times Internet-owned MensXP is India’s largest fashion, wellness and beauty brand for men. It established itself as a full stack commerce company in 2019 and now has an audience of 60 million. We deconstruct the brand’s ecommerce expansion.

by Neha Gupta | March 11, 2021

MensXP, India’s largest men’s lifestyle brand, was acquired by Times Internet in 2013.

MensXP identifies as a content commerce company that translates audience trust into a suite of transactional offerings, and connects more than 60 million people across its social and owned assets. It boasts of over 15 million monthly active users, about half a million daily active users, and around 1 million monthly shoppers. 

Angad Bhatia, the Founder of MensXP and CEO of Indiatimes Lifestyle Network, joined WAN-IFRA’s recent virtual Digital Media India 2021 conference to discuss how he built a niche advertising business in India, foraying into a full stack commerce approach that is atypical of most content companies, which usually go into affiliate services or build programmes to aid merchandising and branding. 

“We’ve essentially built a Nykaa for men,” says Bhatia, noting the popular Indian lifestyle retailer of wellness, beauty and fashion products. “Our brand enjoys top-of-mind recall in the men’s grooming, wellness and fashion categories.”

Let’s talk numbers

According to the statistics provided by the company, the brand has proven to be 10x bigger than most of the scaled direct-to-consumer (DTC) men’s companies, about 20x higher in reach than NykaaMan and about 30x larger than most media companies in the same category.

Every year, MensXP produces more than 100,000 articles, over 5,000 original videos, 10-11 web series and collaborates with partners such as Facebook, Instagram, Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon, Netflix and Prime Video to create original content.

In 2019, leveraging this massive reach, the company forayed into commerce to build a unique business model by using the community trust it has acquired during its 7-8 years of existence.

The brand now runs an exclusive talent/influencer agency with more than 20 creators. The male-to-female ratio of its audience is 88:12, and the primary age group is 18-34 years.

In the past year or so, the company has on-boarded more than 400 of the top DTC men’s brands in addition to building a suite of its own DTC offerings, including MensXP MUD, India’s first men’s makeup brand.

The company follows a four-step content-to-commerce consumer journey that includes brand awareness, product recommendations, aiding purchase decisions and enabling retention. 

“We have a team dedicated to converting our product detail pages into a meaningful experience that converts about 200 percent better than most of the bigger, more established beauty and fashion marketplaces in India,” Bhatia said. 

Impact of COVID

As the first COVID-19 lockdown started last March, MensXP had to cease its operations, and only resumed its services by July as the pincodes started opening up and rules for logistics around non-essential goods relaxed. The company is now seeing a 600 percent growth compared to its pre-COVID numbers. 

The brand’s revenues from commerce overshot its media revenue in November 2020. By 2021, the commerce revenue will likely be 7x or 8x of its media revenue, according to Bhatia.

“It’s been a sporadic rise for our commerce ambitions. The steps we have had to take were in line with industry based practices. There is a stack of rules which most third-party logistics providers and warehousing companies are working on these days. We work with most of them,” he said.

Translating the customer journey into commerce

Once a MensXP consumer makes a purchase, the brand’s proprietary technology around one-on-one recommendation kicks in, supplying the customer with custom content dedicated around the usage of that product, exclusive content that is typically either behind paywalls or given out for free as a means to create more attention and trust in the community. 

Case studies that explain the 4-step funnel include:

  • ‘Cut The Crap’ campaign with Philips: The intent of the campaign was to bring to the fore the importance of hygiene for men.

Here’s how it fared:

Impressions: 60 million+

Reach: 17 million+

10-second views: 15 million+

Engagement: 3 million+

Comments: About 1 million 

“This is incredible, because in this day, where reach is purchased by brands on social media, we are leveraging this community trust and integrating our brand message into the campaign,” Bhatia said.

  • Digital covers: MensXP produces digital magazines every month that feature celebrities in the news on the covers.

One particular issue that featured popular Punjabi star Jassie Gill in a clothing collection created exclusively for him by MensXP garnered the following numbers:

Social media shares: 10,000 

Average time spent: 3 minutes+ 

Page views on the Shop Collection worn by Gill: 23,000+

This digital edition also proved to have a direct relationship with conversion. 

  • Style Up: This show created by the brand featured Siddharth Batra, one of the top fashion influencers at MensXP. The intent of the show was directly built around helping users navigate their style and ultimately urging them closer to the purchase funnel. 

Here’s how the show performed:

Organic page views: 10,000 

Average time spent: 3 minutes+

  • Creating an environment of impulse purchase: From time to time, MensXP recommends top-lists of some of the most popular DTC brands. One such perfume page received more than 25,000 organic views and bagged 450+ purchases of those views.

“While users are reading articles, we help them navigate by recommending products, giving out special discounts, thereby creating not only an environment of impulse purchase, but also solving their biggest wellness problems,” Bhatia said. 

Challenging stereotypes

Bhatia says that it is a misnomer that the integral requirement for content is to aid discovery.

“When we get tagged as a content commerce company, that is the first impression that comes to mind. However, that’s far from the truth. While that’s about 25 percent of the story, the remaining 75 percent is cut across our 4 verticals.”

One of the most sought-after products from MensXP MUD is the MensXP BB cream, a blemish balm for men. The company created this product, atypical in a man’s cupboard, to challenge beauty standards and normalise conversation around men’s beauty. 

Each time a consumer purchases this product, a video on how to use this product is sent to them and a WhatsApp channel opens up for general consultation. 

“If you look at the way the content stack is cutting across from brand awareness to recommendation to helping consumers make better purchase decisions, all the way to retention, it really has become the backbone of how MensXP has built its entire business,” Bhatia said. 

“We have invested a lot of resources, money and time. The knowledge bank we have developed for this category over the last 7-8 years to get into the nuts and bolts of what the category requirements has resulted in about a 300 percent better conversion rate and almost a 50 percent lower return rate than most of the Indian wellness brands,” he said. 

Challenges and growth 

Wellness brand MensXP has always witnessed a natural proclivity towards product recommendations that have been an inherent part of its editorial strategy. 

The challenge is last-mile attribution. While value around discovery is mainly created by publishers and creators on social media, most of the value is exercised by either the middle men padding margins – Google or Facebook – or the marketplace that essentially completes the purchase. 

“We wanted to build a full stack approach where we go from discovery to selling the product, so that we not only create a value chain for us but also pass perks back to the customer,” Bhatia said. “Initially, when we forayed into commerce, we didn’t have push back. It was almost as if our audience was expecting us to do it. The transition into commerce for our audience has been very natural.”

Did MensXP’s content’s organic reach suffer through distribution platforms?

While on social media, there has been no impact and organic numbers have actually been rising, it is around search that the brand is cognisant of the fact that its organic reach may depreciate.

“As we have seen, content is typically higher and commerce is lower, but we have actually seen the opposite,” said Bhatia.  

MensXP’s search traffic has quadrupled in the past 18 months, thanks to the way the brand has managed its commerce and media stack. 

“There is still an info architecture on which MensXP is built and commerce organically integrates into that ecosystem so that the purchase funnel becomes easier,” Bhatia said.

Neha Gupta

Multimedia Journalist

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